As an eighth grader, Todd Gragnano began hearing about this freshman quarterback at Fountain Valley High School. A guy named David Henigan.
What Gragnano heard was: A) Henigan was very good; and B) Henigan's father, Mike Henigan, was an assistant coach for the Barons. Being a quarterback and living within Fountain Valley's boundaries, Gragnano was naturally concerned.
"I didn't think I was going to get much playing time there," said Gragnano, The Times' athlete of the week.
Fortunately for Gragnano, he had an option. His father, Al Gragnano, was the baseball coach at Los Alamitos from 1976-84 and is currently the boys' cross-country coach. It allowed Gragnano to choose between the two high schools.
It was no contest.
"I'd been hanging around the Los Alamitos program since I was a little kid because my dad was the public address announcer at the home games," Gragnano said. "I felt more at home there than I would have at Fountain Valley."
The choice has worked out well. Gragnano led the Griffins to the Southern Section Southern Conference final in 1987 and has the team in the semifinals of the Division III playoffs this season.
In Los Alamitos' 52-22 quarterfinal victory over Schurr Friday, Gragnano completed 14 of 17 passes for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns. And he left the game in the third quarter with the Griffins comfortably ahead.
Gragnano, a junior, surpassed J.T. Snow's school record for single-season passing yards during the game. He has 1,999 this season compared to Snow's record of 1,793 set in 1985.
"This year, it seems every game he makes the big play to get us started," Los Alamitos Coach John Barnes said.
"Friday there was a play where he scrambled to his left, avoided three players. He was just about to step out of bounds, he was literally right in front of me. At the last moment he sees Chris Stewart down the sideline and completes a 15-yard pass. I thought, 'Man, how did he do that?' "
But Barnes is not surprised. He knows what a Gragnano can do.
In 1977, Barnes coached Todd's uncle, Chris, at Cypress High School in 1977. Chris Gragnano was the Empire League player of the year that season.
When Todd arrived at the Los Alamitos campus, he felt uncomfortable at first. He was an outsider, with no friends at first. Being a freshman on the varsity only made his situation more awkward.
"It was weird for the first month or so," Gragnano said. "During practice, I could see the guys thinking 'Why is guy on the team?' But I proved myself as the season went on."
Last season, he won the starting job, beating out Winston Wolf. So the move has worked out well.
"I think his dad thought Todd would be taken care of here," Barnes said. "We've certainly tried to take care of him."
Quarterback Troy Kopp of Mission Viejo passed for 174 yards and rushed for 84 as the Diablos defeated El Dorado, 34-7, in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division III playoffs. Kopp threw for 3 touchdowns and rushed for another.
Defensive back Chad Ledbetter of Fullerton had 3 interceptions as the Indians defeated Kennedy, 16-7, in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section Division VI playoffs.
Goalie Greg Rhodes of Corona del Mar made 10 saves as the Sea Kings defeated Sunny Hills, 10-7, to win the Southern Section 4-A water polo championship. Rhodes shut out the Lancers during the final 13:41 of the match.
Jimmy Rodriguez of Santa Ana Valley finished third in the state cross-country championships Saturday with a time of 15 minutes 5 seconds.
Matt Teeple of El Toro had 5 goals and 3 assists as the Chargers defeated San Clemente, 19-11, Wednesday to win the Southern Section 3-A water polo championship.
Los Alamitos High
Height, Weight, Class: 6-2, 175, Junior
Last Week: Gragnano completed 14 of 17 passes for 231 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Griffins defeated Schurr, 52-22, in the Division III quarterfinals.
Season: Gragnano has completed 127 of 234 passes for 1,999 yards and 14 touchdowns.